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  • Writer's pictureJohn Stackhouse

“But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming?”

If life has been disappointing, disillusioning, and worse—shocking, grievous, doomed—then what we crave is the predictable, the quotidian, and the safe.

The ordinary becomes precious, and we will struggle and fight for the status quo against any promise/threat of significant alteration.

The prophet Malachi, in the wildly extreme way of all Old Testament prophets, promises the coming of God in a way that produces both shivers of joyful anticipation and shudders of grave apprehension. For we are all, as Luther said, simul justus et peccator, targets—except for Christ!—of God’s purifying wrath even as we long for God to make right what we see is wrong…whether in ourselves or in the world.

When Yhwh comes, because things have become what they are, he must slice through, and crack open, and haul down, and heave up, and disturb and displace and dismay.

The gift of the accompanying angelic encouragement—literally, “heartening”—to “fear not” thus comes as a Chestertonian joke. Really? “Fear not,” in the midst of all this uproar?

Yes, God’s voices repeat. For Immanuel, “God-with-us,” is with us in love, as well as in justice. God cares for you just as God is taking care of all things.

I believe, Sir: please help my unbelief.


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